Thousands of Britain's elderly could die this winter through spontaneous combustion, according to the government.
The warning comes a few days after an Irish coroner decided that Michel Faherty, 76, who burned to death in his home last winter, died of spontaneous combustion.
'Many older people do not understand that overheating their homes can lead to tragic circumstances,' a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said. 'Just turning the central heating up a notch too much can easily ignite an elderly householder - even their pets can be engulfed in the conflagration'.
Tory ministers believe that the overheating of homes every winter by the elderly needs to be tackled.
'Just because we give people £200 is no excuse to go mad with the heating. Some pensioners would be better spending the money on fans,' said one minister.
But Labour has accused the government of scaremongering as a prelude to abolishing the Winter Fuel Payment, paid to people over sixty.
'This is just another cynical move by this coalition government to impose more cuts on the most vulnerable in society. The only case of a pensioner spontaneously combusting is that of Mr Faherty, and he was Irish and probably warming himself near an open peat fire,' a Labour spokesman said.
Scientists are divided on the possibility of spontaneous combustion. 'It's a lot of nonsense,' said Dr Fran Shelley who works at CERN. 'An elderly person is as likely to spontaneously combust as to travel faster than the speed of light.'